COVID-19

Apple, Google plan to release contact-tracing tool this week

Jack Stewart Apr 28, 2020
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The Australian government's contact tracing app, COVIDSafe. Apple and Google worked together on their own tech-based solution. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
COVID-19

Apple, Google plan to release contact-tracing tool this week

Jack Stewart Apr 28, 2020
The Australian government's contact tracing app, COVIDSafe. Apple and Google worked together on their own tech-based solution. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The term “contact tracing” is being used a lot at the moment. It’s a way to notify us if we’ve been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19. Health authorities say it’s crucial as part of plans to reopen businesses and the economy. 

Technology can help with this. Apple and Google are set to release a smartphone tool this week. Traditional contact tracing involves a human tracker questioning someone who tests positive about who they’ve been near, and then trying to reach those people to warn them to isolate. 

Tina White, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, is with the group Covid Watch, which helped develop the underlying technology to allow smartphones to track other phones around them privately — and do contact tracing.

“What this sort of app will do is it will give you an anonymous notification instead that you have been exposed, [and] here are the next steps,” White said.

Apple and Google, traditionally competitors when it comes to their iPhones and Android phones, worked together on the system, which uses Bluetooth signals.

Users will have to download an app from their local public health authority to opt in.

Pam Dixon, founder and executive director of the World Privacy Forum, wants assurances that any data will be deleted once this pandemic is over. 

“We need to hear that this is a temporary system just to deal with the crisis and then it goes away,” Dixon said.

She’s also watching to see if the use of these types of trackers becomes mandatory to enter restaurants or board planes, for example, which she says would raise extra concerns.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

It’s still the question on everyone’s minds: What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The $600-a-week payments have ended, officially, as of July 31. For now, there is no additional federal pandemic unemployment assistance. House Democrats want to renew the $600 payments. Senate Republicans have proposed giving the unemployed 70% of their most recent salary by this October, when state unemployment offices have had time to reconfigure their computer systems to do those calculations. Until then, jobless workers would just get another $200. But, nothing has been agreed upon yet.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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